What is Agnipath scheme?
The government in this scheme will recruit around 45,000- 50,000 students who were between the age of 17.5-21 and then give them 6 months of training and 3.5 years of employment under the Armed forces. The students who is selected in this scheme will be known as AGNIVEERS.
Now, after completion of 4 years the Government will now select 25% of Agniveers and give them permanent job of 15 years under armed forces.
Salary and Benefits:
- Recruits will get starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
- During this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest. At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
- For 25% of soldiers, who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits or gratuity and this is consider one of the biggest disadvantages of this scheme.
- Make the armed forces much leaner and younger: For India’s over 13-lakh strong armed forces, the current average age profile is 32 years. It is envisaged it will come down by about 4-5 years by implementation of this scheme
- Reduce the defence pension bill: The government has either allocated or paid more than Rs. 3.3 lakh crore in defence pension since 2020.
- As per Army calculations, the savings for the government in this ‘Tour of Duty model’ of recruitment from just one sepoy would be around 11.5 cr (the army initially proposed a 3-year service model).
- Create “future-ready” soldiers: A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies. it makes our armed forces more tech-savy also 4 years of experience can bring ease in the working.
- Increased employment opportunities and higher skilled workforce: Apart from job opportunities in the army, recruits because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
- The central government will likely give preference to Agniveers in regular employment after their four years stint.
What are the challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme?
First, The government hopes to hire 46,000 “agniveer” this year. Although with the age limits, the recruitment may not include those who have been waiting for the hiring freeze since 2020 to end. More than a lakh vacancies have built up in the Indian Army alone over the last two years, but under the new policy, not all may be filled.
Second, the Indian Army’s experiments so far with the diversity in closed regiments have yielded mixed results. There is a probability that the new scheme may do more harm than good in diversifying the static regiments.
Third, ex- agniveers may have to face hardships in getting employment after 4 years of service. Especially when meaningful employment opportunities in significant or adequate numbers still elude an ever-increasing number of graduates. Further, ‘trained-to-kill’ soldiers being demobilized every year could prove dangerous if they remain jobless and frustrated. Many believe it may lead to militarization of society.
Fourth, Many experts believe that a shorter duration of service could compromise on training, morale, and commitment in comparison to the permanent recruits. Critics argue that agniveers may turn out to be risk-averse with the bulk looking to secure an alternate career. Moreover, the Government should have tested this scheme as a pilot, before scaling it up further.
Similar schemes in other countries:
- Voluntary tour of duty: In the USA tours are 6-9 or even 12 months’ deploymentdepending upon the needs of the military and branch of service.
- Mandatory tour of duty (called conscription): Countries that follow the practice of conscription include Israel, Norway, North Korea, and Sweden.
No reform can be fool-proof and without teething troubles. The scheme may prove to be advantageous for the youth to gain experience. But the government should make sure to address all the queries and worries of the public regarding the same. This scheme can be very progressive and help in strengthen the armed forces but before that satisfaction of people is must. The Government should be more realistic and should focus more on the clarification.